Every year there are dozens upon dozens of academics who come to con. They are panelists, guests and sometime just regular con goers. When academics host panels usually the category they are talking about is a dead give away as to who they are and the kind of panel they are on. Occassionally there is an academic that fools the track organizer and then well, bamboozles the rest of us too. If I go to a panel, it is because there is something about the toopic I would like to talk or learn about. I hate leaving panels in the middle. I think it is rude and then it might hurt the feelings of those on the panel. Needless to say, I have walked out of very few panels.
When you read the info on the panel and it suggests a panel is about topic X by academic Y, then you go to listen to a hearty discussion, academic or not. No problem, you know what you are going to. I have gone to many of these panels and I enjoy them very much. I go into these panels knowing that this is more of information gathering and learning than entertaining. Last year I went to a panel on a track that has NOTHING to do with academics. I have been to dozens of panels with that track and have never found anything academic about it. I went in knowing what the subject was about and thought this was going to be a lively discussion. BWHAAAAAAAHAAAAA it was an academic reading his dissertation. I was PISSED OFF. This track, what the hell was going on. I read through the description again and NOWHERE was it suggested that this was not some sort of a discussion but some know-it-all dude talking about periods. What the heck? I so badly wanted to leave. I saw some friendly faces in there too and we were all looking around the room at one another kind of doing a subliminal, "if you leave, I will follow". Needless to say, none of us left. It would be rude.
Later on in the con I wandered into another academic panel. This one did not call out that it was academic either. However, this was the Tolkien track and the title was Dwarven History. Hello, how could this not be an academic panel? I went and it was awesome panel. This guy sat up at the front and told us all about the history of Tolkien dwarves. These are histories that are not in the books. The description did not have to tell us this was going to be academic, the title did it for me and I was sooooo excited. The other panel wellll um nope.
Word to the wise, read the description of the panel and if anything looks wonky, find somewhere else to go or something else to do.